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X-Factor! Some UFC Vegas 20 main card predictions

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UFC Fight Night: Belfort v Henderson 3 Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This weekend (Sat., Feb. 27, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain in UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 20. It’s the definition of a solid, if unspectacular, “Fight Night” event: the usual mix of prospects, “Contender Series” products, and a couple established veterans to mix it up. The main event promises Heavyweight action between two of the best new contenders in Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Ciryl Gane, but there are some fun fights to analyze before the big men throw down.

Let’s take a closer look at some main card fights:

Women’s Flyweight: Montana de la Rosa vs. Mayra Bueno Silva

Best Win for de la Rosa? Mara Romero Borella For Silva? Gillian Robertson
Current Streak: De la Rosa came up short last time out, whereas Silva won her last bout
X-Factor: Who is the better striker?
How these two match up: This is a wrestler vs. grappler battle.

De la Rosa started her UFC career strong with three straight wins, establishing herself as a potential Flyweight contender ... only to lose two of three. The Texan is a strong wrestler with a tight top game, but she has struggled on the feet when unable to force her wrestling game.

Meanwhile, Borella is a solid jiu-jitsu fighter with iffy everything else. She’s managed to submit two of her opponents without ever scoring a takedown, which is impressive in its own strange way, but she still has a long way to go to become a complete fighter.

This is a simple prediction based on a single question: Can Borella sweep and/or submit her way to victory? While fighting from one’s back is a more viable path to victory in women’s mixed martial arts (MMA), it’s still a low percentage game.

De la Rosa is the far better wrestler, and she’s a talented grappler herself. She’s shown a smart top game in the past and has only been submitted by Mackenzie Dern ... who is pretty good at the whole jiu-jitsu thing.

While I would never be surprised by an armbar from guard in an unranked women’s Flyweight fight, smart money remains on de la Rosa.

Prediction: De la Rosa via decision

Welterweight: Ramazan Kuramagomedov vs. Alex Oliveira

Best Win for Kuramagomedov? Jordan Williams For Oliveira? Carlos Condit
Current Streak: Kuramagomedov debuts on short-notice at 8-0, whereas Oliveira has lost his last bout
X-Factor: Kuramagomedov accepted the fight on less than a week’s notice
How these two match up: This should be a quality Welterweight scrap that features kickboxing, clinch work and wrestling in equal parts.

Kuramagomedov — the most intimidating last name possible — has fought before on “Contender Series,” but he didn’t quite impress enough to earn the contract. The Russian Southpaw throws solid kicks at range, maintains a high output, and definitely has a strong top game.

Oliveira, meanwhile, is all physical talent. The Brazilian got a late start in martial arts compared to most UFC fighters, but it hardly matters given his incredible physical strength and explosive power. The Brazilian “Cowboy” kicks absurdly hard at distance, lunges with surprisingly fast power punches, and his cage wrestling can finish fights, too.

Oliveira is not old, but he has been in a dozen high-level brawls, and that wear may be showing in recent performances (he’s lost four of his last six). Though the veteran is far more proven and more dangerous, he was quickly dispatched by a debuting talent last time out, so there’s reason to be concerned.

Still, the Brazilian is a tough draw for one’s first fight. The combination of lunging power punches, brutal kicks, and overwhelming strength is an unusual one, and Kuramagomedov does not have a wealth of experience against high-level competition.

I’d expect a different result a year from now with a full camp behind Kuramagomedov, but as it is, the veteran is likely to land the big shots that sway the judges.

Prediction: Oliveira via decision

Bantamweight: Jimmie Rivera vs. Pedro Munhoz 2

Best Win for Rivera? Well, in this case, it’s Munhoz! For Munhoz? Cody Garbrandt
Current Streak: Rivera returned to the win column last time out, while Munhoz has lost two in a row
X-Factor: Which man adjusts better for the rematch?
How these two match up: I wrote an entire full length article on this fight like two weeks ago for any interested, but bottom line: it’s going to be a SCRAP!

Jimmie Rivera won 20 — TWENTY — fights in a row before running into some struggles against the Bantamweight elite, losing three out of four bouts. Fortunately, “El Terror” still had some great moments in his loss to now-champion Petr Yan, and he showed all his counter punching and wrestling skill to handle Cody Stamann last time out.

Munhoz has a chin filled with concrete. The Brazilian is happy to sling leather in the pocket at any time, loves to rip calf kicks, and he has one of the best guillotines on the roster.

The first bout was competitive, but ultimately, Rivera’s ability to control range and his generally sharper boxing shifted the small margins into his favor. Almost six years later, has anything changed regarding how their skills match up?

It doesn’t seem so. Munhoz has become a sharper low kicker, but Rivera still has him outgunned in that regard. Otherwise, Rivera’s crisp counter left hook and footwork are still superior to Munhoz’s pressure and aggression.

The first bout was a split-decision, and this fight will likely be highly competitive too. All the same, the style match up still favors Rivera, forcing Munhoz to rely on a knockdown or strangle to change the tide.

Prediction: Rivera via decision

Featherweight: Alex Caceres vs. Kevin Croom

Best Win for Caceres? Sergio Pettis For Croom? Roosevelt Roberts (officially overturned to a “No Contest” due to marijuana, but ... that’s stupid)
Current Streak: Caceres has won three straight, whereas Croom would be entering following a successful UFC debut were it not for the stingy old NSAC
X-Factor: Will Caceres’ shaky submission defense make an appearance?
How these two match up: This reads like a fun, scramble-y bout.

Caceres has been there and done that, seeing good and hard times alike at both 135- and 145-pounds. However, the 32-year-old “Bruce Leeroy” seems to have once again found his stride at Featherweight, flowing through combinations while still managing to defend takedowns.

Meanwhile, Croom entered as a short-notice replacement and major underdog opposite Roberts, only to strangle the 4-1 favorite in 30 seconds with a standing guillotine choke! Prior to that opportunity, Croom secured a great deal of experience fighting all over the country, facing some quality competition on his way to UFC’s roster.

For my degenerate gamblers out there: it’s generally a rather bad sign when a UFC newcomer has double digit losses and most of them are finishes. It’s one thing if those losses were many years ago, but seeing as Croom has been finished in four of his last five losses since 2016, it’s a sure-fire sign that something in his defense is majorly flawed.

At the UFC level, those flaws are noticed. Barring another quick stoppage, Caceres finds his openings and wraps up the neck.

Prediction: Caceres via submission

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 20 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 20: “Rozenstruik vs. Gane” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 0-5 (Serious Ouch!)